If we all are affected we all need to be involved….
Dear Engaged Bystander, I have been teaching workshops for a long time - so when I did my very first workshop about bystander engagement, I had a rude awakening. I thought it went really well, I had that nice feeling that I had connected with my audience and we all learned from that connection. But then at the end, one of the participants asked me, "But how do we get people who are not affected by sexual abuse to take action?"
I had failed.
Everything I have learned about sexual violence in the last 20 years is that we are ALL affected by it. This includes, whether we have been sexually abused, whether someone we love has been sexually abused, whether we know someone who has abused, or how we are all deeply affected by the images and messages surrounding us every day. So how did I leave the impression that there are people who are not affected by sexual violence?
I sometimes think that the best place to begin answering a question like this is with our own experiences.
So now I like start my workshops with a simple question that may make sense here too: "Why do you choose to do this work?" I don't think there is ever a simple response. But when people have shared their reasons with me, I am continually inspired by the ability of people to survive and thrive through the trauma of sexual abuse. I am equally inspired by those who have never experienced sexual abuse but are willing to hear the stories of horror each day and still have hope. From these stories it is so easy to see that ALL of us are affected by sexual violence. And that begins a very different conversation.